Tokyo Initiator's Diary: Independent Editor

Vol. 10
Sugatsuke Masanobu
Date: September 09, 2008

One day in August

Talk show with Maekita Miyako at Aoyama Book Center

I'm meeting Maekita Miyako twice within one week for conversations. It’s difficult to explain what Maekita does, but I guess the term "eco-shifting" sums it up quite precisely. Now you might ask what the hell is eco-shifting, so let me add that Maekita Miyako is a director concerned with eco-related communication.

Next to heading an NPO called Sustena and initiating such campaigns as the "Candle Night" and "Don't let it be — World Poverty", eco-evangelist Maekita works as an advisor for "ecololo" magazine. I worked with Maekita on the "ecocolo" pamphlet and the subsequent book in 2003 and 2005 respectively, and in addition to these, on Maekita’s first book, "Eco-Shift", compiled in 2006. While doing all these great jobs together I guess she infected me significantly with her eco-shift virus. Come to think of it, before meeting Maekita I used to hate everyone who was talking about eco and environmental stuff.

Another book realized in collaboration with Maekita Miyako is the Daichi wo Mamoru Kai’s "The fruits of the Earth" (Tsukiji Shokan), the publication of which we celebrate with a talk show at Aoyama Book Center on 8/23. For the session titled "What 'The fruits of the Earth' is supposed to communicate", each of us prepared a set of visuals illustrating his/her past works/projects, which we project onto a screen while explaining the respective project verbally. Maekita, however, can't seem to stop, and keeps talking for about an hour (of the scheduled 90 minutes for both of us) before we can finally begin with the actual conversation. All of her previous efforts, including "The fruits of the Earth" as well as the "Ikimono Mikke" website dedicated to topics related to the Nature Conservation Society and biodiversity, seem to be organically interlinked as they all touch upon the same subject matter.


The conversation today revolves mainly around such topics as the how little charming and sexy eco-related communication is, and how one could possibly pep things up a little. At this occasion we also confirmed our mutual awareness of how boring it is to keep stressing the correctness of correct behavior.

A few days later I meet Maekita again, this time for a conversation that will be included in a Sustena book collecting various interviews, scheduled for publication from Nanatsumori Shokan in late October. Here we discuss the discrepancy between politics and the man on the street, and exchange ideas for bringing the two closer together. Our rather difficult challenge here is to find solutions based on the powers of creativity and communication, and the talk eventually drifts off into territory I don't feel comfortable on. As usual, Maekita occupies about 80 percent of the time frame, reducing my part to not much more than short comments of the style of comedy outfit Bakusho-Mondai’s Tanaka Yuji. We talk about how to increase voter turnout among young people, and the rebranding of opposition parties.

For those who prefer rather classical methods, our discussion style must sound kind of perverted, but I think that it’s still better to offer something new than to give people the same song to listen to over and over again. Admittedly with a bit of self-admiration, it appears to me that, what Maekita and I are doing here is perhaps an attempt to update and rearrange the old song of communication with a social notion.


August 30

Organ-o-rounge and Matsumoto Chikara at the agnes b. shop in Aoyama

This is the first real "Sunday" I have in a long time. I take my time browsing through a magazine, have a tea at a caf_, and write down a couple of things as they flash across my mind. In the evening I drop by at the agnes b. shop in Aoyama, where Organ-o-rounge are doing a performance together with animation artist Matsumoto Chikara. The trio of sound art troubadours blends in a skillful way electronica and vocals, and I'm trying to catch as many of their Tokyo shows as possible. I also wrote a little text recommending their (brilliant!) album "cos mos".

They did the music for the Agnes b. Paris collection, so consequently they were asked again to appear in this live music event commemorating the reopening of the renovated Aoyama shop. The shop is packed with visitors, who witness how the live performance starts with a piece that was also used at the Paris collection. As an interlude, Matsumoto delivered one of his trademark freakish performances, followed by another block of sophisticated live music. Complete with encores, the event exceeded by far the scale of the average "in-store performance".

After the show I have a quick meet 'n' greet with the members, drop by at the Comme des Garcons flagship store in Aoyama, check out Hanzawa Takeshi’s photo exhibition at Spiral, and end my trip at Tower Books in Shibuya. I buy a pile of foreign magazines as usual, but unfortunately feel the effect of the collapse of the Yohan Book Service. Some of my favorite magazines aren't available! It’s too sad, really!! My bounty used to be too heavy to carry home, so I always had everything delivered to my house, but this time I'm leaving the store with a much smaller and lighter package. According to a clerk I ask, it is uncertain if and when the foreign magazines that used to come through Yohan will arrive. The idea that Japan is turning into a country where even the biggest international publications are unavailable is highly lamentable and above that just plain annoying. Not that I'm simply praising all things foreign, but culture grows from active exchange between the domestic and the imported. The top ranks of the Japanese movie charts are occupied mainly by domestic titles, and in the music business, Japanese artists are dominating more than ever before. If the situation escalates to an extent that even foreign magazines are no longer imported, this really makes me worry, even anxious about the future of Japanese culture. First of all, the Yohan problem is a serious issue. I recently began to fantasize about the possibility to start up a new Yohan in cooperation between book stores and readers…

Sugatsuke Office website: